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Description - Keeping the World Away? by Margaret Forster

Lost, found, stolen, strayed, sold, fought over...This engrossing, beautifully crafted novel follows the fictional adventures, over a hundred years, of an early 20th-century painting and the women whose lives it touches. It opens with bold, passionate Gwen, struggling to be an artist, leaving for Paris where she becomes Rodin's lover and paints a small, intimate picture of a quiet corner of her attic room. Then there's Charlotte, a dreamy intellectual Edwardian girl, and Stella, Lucasta, Ailsa and finally young Gillian, who share an unspoken desire to have for themselves a tranquil golden place like that in the painting. Quintessential Forster, this is a novel about women's lives, about what it means and what it costs to be both a woman and an artist, and an unusual, compelling look at a beautiful painting and its imagined afterlife.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099496861
ISBN-10: 0099496860
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 20mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 1-Mar-2007
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Keeping the World Away? by Margaret Forster

US Kirkus Review » A haunting painting entrances the women in whose hands it falls over the course of a century.Forster (Is There Anything You Want?, 2006, etc.) continues her tradition of examining literary and artistic lives with this look at painter Gwen John (1876 - 1939). Survivor of a grim, motherless childhood in Wales, her cool, detached demeanor covers a maelstrom of emotions. She leaves home at 18 to attend London's Slade School of Art and eventually ends up in Paris, where she refines her artistic approach. Continually under the shadow of her flamboyant brother Augustus, whose fame as a painter came more quickly, Gwen struggles to achieve recognition. Rebuffed by her former lover Auguste Rodin, she turns inward, painting her loneliness into a small picture of her attic room. That painting's fictitious journey over the next century is the heart of the story. Gwen gives it to a friend, who loses it. The work is subsequently sold, passed down from mother to daughter, stolen, given by a woman to her lover, fought over in an estate and bequeathed to a young female artist. For each woman who possesses it, however briefly, the painting's quiet luminosity calls to something deep inside her: emptiness, poverty, welcoming, tranquility or a "strange yearning for something unobtainable." Forster captures the characters' artistic desires and delicately hints at the connections that nurture and inspire these women. She sets her characters in the context of the events that define the period, from the hardships and tragedies of two world wars to the escalation of art prices at the end of the 20th century.An intimate, subtly crafted, satisfying read. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Margaret Forster

Margaret Forster is the author of many successful and acclaimed novels, including Have the Men Had Enough?, Lady's Maid, Diary of an Ordinary Woman, Is There Anything You Want?, Over and Isa and May, as well as bestselling memoirs (Hidden Lives and Precious Lives) and biographies. She is married to writer and journalist Hunter Davies and lives in London and the Lake District.

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